Kroger - the largest supermarket chain in the US - recently enlisted the expertise of DDB and Hornet to aid in a massive company re-brand. In addition to the launch of a new logo, new tagline, and new brand messaging centred around fresh, affordable food for all, Kroger wanted to create an overall look and feel that would be completely ownable and original.
So, they turned to the talents of Hornet director César Pelizer. Put simply, the Brazilian-born, London-based director has a style that’s about as original as it gets—as original as the original grocery store Mr. Barney Kroger opened in downtown Cincinnati back in 1883.
Kroger has come a long way since 1883. It’s the second-largest general retailer in the US, 4th largest in the world, and the 17th biggest company on the Forbes 500 list. Nine million people shop at Kroger each day across 2,800 stores in 35 states. It makes sense, then, that Kroger wanted their re-brand launch to have a comparably sizeable splash.
Prior to July 2019, Kroger had never worked with a creative agency of record. But, knowing they needed to solidify their branding and tell a more cohesive & inclusive story about their commitment to food that’s ‘Fresh for Everyone,’ they finally, after months of searching for the perfect agency fit, enlisted the creative talents of DDB New York, along with the tangential talents of Hornet and César.
According to César, “When I received the brief from DDB, I couldn’t have been more excited. The idea was to create a range of recognisable Kroger characters that would celebrate diversity in a strong, bold, colourful style, and of course, would support what people love most: fresh food. During pre-production, I took several trips to my local supermarket just to observe the people around me.”
These observations led to the creation of a sprawling mosaic of unique character creations. During pre-production, Hornet and DDB worked iteratively back-and-forth to land upon a set of characters that were completely distinctive, original, and lovable. These characters - these big, buoyant, beyond memorable - became affectionately known as ‘Kroji’s’, or Kroger emojis.
The launch of the re-brand campaign was massive. There was a 30-second anthem TV spot featuring 12 vignettes and 24 originally designed and rigged characters. There were tailored spots for 11 of Kroger’s subsidiary stores. There were in-store print materials, out-of-home billboards, new shopping bags and employee aprons, and social media assets, all of which added up to the creation of 100-plus unique characters displayed in countless formats and locations. In terms of execution, Hornet’s in-house team of CG animators worked tirelessly for 6 weeks in our Manhattan studio to bring the characters and the anthem spot to life. Immediately upon completion, they rolled into yet more intensive work for additional upcoming spots still to come for Kroger.
In other words, a brand transformation is a massive undertaking. But already, it appears to have been met with a great response. As César says: “The idea was to represent everyday people. Now that the project has been released, it’s been so fun seeing how people on social media are interacting with the campaign by tagging one another and asking, ‘Is that you??’. That, for me, is the best feedback I could have asked for with this campaign.”
The good people at Kroger may be summed up best in their new brand attributes: “The Kroji animation features a lovable cast of characters to represent Kroger customers, associates, and communities in an inclusive, relatable, optimistic, and fun way.”